Matthew Gioia

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Matthew began seeking alternative educational environments halfway through his college experience. He participated in Naropa University's "contemplative education program" in Boulder, CO,  and studied at St. John's College in Santa Fe, NM, which offers a Great Books curriculum.  From there, he moved to Mississippi to teach in a rural middle school and attend the Ole Miss on weekends.  Matthew came to HVSS by way of a search for a place where he is permitted to respect children and teenagers as fully human beings.  At school these days, Matthew loves to play sports, run the Judicial Committee, teach history and writing, and try making jokes.

Articles by the Author

Can't Wait Until Music Night

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"This is the kind of gig I had in mind when I moved to the Hudson Valley." That's what Jason from the King of Rome said when he took the stage at the January 2014 Music Night, and everyone who has ever been knows what he meant: Music Night is suffused with the kind of intimate ambiance lent by the glow of warm embers in a friend's fireplace

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It's Up to You

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"Claiming responsibility for your own life, for your own community, for your world is glorious.  “I am responsible!” That’s heart; that’s love. Something extraordinary is happening today, and we need responsible people."

 
Find out what else Matthew said at the 2014 graduation ceremony!

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Commencement Speech 2015

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I am really honored and flattered to be asked to speak again this year.  It’s always a pleasure for me to fabricate heady rhetoric. So, thanks guys.  But actually, you know, after they asked me to speak, I went to them - maybe it was just Kiran, and I asked him who he would really like to speak, and he said Steve Buscemi, of course.  I found Mr. Buscemi on americanspeakers.com and there was a form to request him as a speaker - the lowest fee you could offer was $5,000, so I offered that and added a note that really I was really only offering $250.  We didn’t get a response.  So you’re stuck with me.  

So, when I was working on this yesterday at school one of our youngest students approached me and asked if he could help, and I accepted the offer, and I’m going to begin with his contribution:

"Here ye, here ye, I am a pirate.  You will be missed.  Maybe see you on a visiting week."

Alright.  Here we are: you’re about to graduate.  Though, it’s a little weird to even call it “graduation” here, isn’t it?  Because - as we all know - at this school the curriculum is responsibility and the method is freedom, and so the content of what a student actually does here - what they “work on” - is different for each one; and ultimately, the curriculum is just their own person, their own genius.  

So - what does it mean to graduate here?  The transcripts we give you say that really only you can tell us.  When I was thinking about this I was reminded of a passage from the prologue to East of Eden by John Steinbeck, which I read over and over again in high school.  (I have done some slight editing to bring Mr. Steinbeck up to date politically.)  Goes like this:  A [person], after [they] have brushed off the dust and chips of [their] life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”

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Pursuing your Passion

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“Having space and time to develop and pursue a genuine passion” is one of the aspects of HVSS that gets a lot of airtime in our PR materials and Open Houses.  Yet, it can be a little misleading - it may give the impression that every student at school is constantly engaged in a specific and well-

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Apprentice Learning

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One of the most effective ways of learning a new skill is through an apprenticeship.  This style of learning is essential to a Sudbury model school and is practiced naturally all day, every day.  This blog entry gives a couple examples of this style of learning in action.

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Playground Build 2016

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Students building new playground areas.I have to admit that I was nervous last Friday morning.  We had really paired down our plans for build day because most of our project leaders were unable to come on the actual date, and only a few people had signed up to participate.  Then, during the week, lots of people volunteered to come, which was great, but I worried we didn’t have anything for them to do.  I imagined little groups of bored and despondent, formerly hopeful people milling around in hats and work gloves, wondering why I was so unprepared utilize their talents.  I imagined them packed into the kitchen while it poured outside, huddling over styrofoam cups of instant coffee, staring grimly at the muddied floor, kindly offering their seats to each other, maybe even taking turns weeping bitterly in the far corner.  I imagined patiently trying to explain to each person the predicament, why it turned out like this, but being received, like a foreign diplomat trying in vain to maintain favor after breaking a promise, with icy silence, stiff nods, and untrusting-yet-firm eye contact. 

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Welcome Back to the Real World

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Hark, the school year beginneth! The long, languid, dreamy days draw to a drier, crisper end. Time to get back to reality. How utterly gratifying to return to a school designed to support young people’s humanness. How invigorating to be able to focus on such a vital task, rather than on, say, sprawling tomes of byzantine standards. Hallelujah. Summer fades, yet my mood endureth.

You know, our school is often misunderstood (big surprise, I know). It’s true that we’re different, indeed we are the alternative to everything else. But sometimes we are accused of living in a kind of Rousseaun fantasy - summer forever. Time frittered away in reverie while the rest of everyone is busy learning how to dominate the real world. I mean the markets. Or whatever. Ideas like this might even pop into the heads of Sudbury parents from time to time, or staff, or even students. But this unimaginative thought ignores the complexity, the history, and the evolution, of our human reality. In fact, HVSS is the most real place I know.

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School Meeting Dispatch: Bathroom Rules

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And we’re off, almost into October, and Sudbury education is under full sail here at HVSS. I think of learning at our school as happening in three basic ways: formally - with instruction and structure, informally - with conversation, play, and individual pursuit, and communally - with collaborative problem solving in our Judicial Committee and School Meeting. Personally, I am most excited by the communal learning, and I think it’s a unique facet of the school. Here’s an example from September: last week, a motion to reserve one of the school’s bathrooms for the exclusive use of those aged 12 and up was brought before the school meeting, and a fascinating discussion ensued. Incidentally, I have a toddler, so potty humor is so hot right now at my house, has been for a while, and in fact I’m giggling this very moment, but I promise I’ll spare you, sophisticated readers, any ill-formed jokes in this post, although I will admit that the meeting was not similarly spared.

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This one tip from Sudbury could save American democracy

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The 2016 presidential election has delivered us many novelties and peculiarities, and its outcome will likewise be historically notable, whatever it is, and will surely deserve prime real estate in all of Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not museums.  Many political scientists believe the candidates for the two major parties are, as a pair, the most disliked by the American citizenry in any presidential election to date.  This aspect of the election, however, is not novel, and people have been griping loudly about it for several decades already.

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School Meeting Dispatch: Sleeping at School

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Last week a motion to ban sleeping at school(!) came before our School Meeting.  Although sleeping isn’t a widespread practice here, it is common to see one or two students sawing logs at some point on any given day, and occasionally certain of the cozier nooks in the building become de-facto napping spots; it’s the “flipped classroom” concept taken swiftly to its apocalyptic  conclusion.  Anyway, there’s a feeling, at least amongst a few of the staff members, myself included, that there is something just a little weird about it.  While it’s true that our students have full responsibility for deciding how to spend their time, sleeping is unique among human activities because the sleeper is unconscious (and can therefore hardly be responsible for themselves).  Besides, sleeping is generally a private act, not a social one, and it comes wrapped in an aura of intimacy - and blankets, and all those blankets and limbs strewn about willy-nilly look sloppy; it’s a little hard on the eyes and it’s probably pretty bad PR.

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